Date of Award

12-1-2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Stockdale, Margaret

Second Advisor

Etcheverry, Paule

Abstract

The use of consumer credit background checks in employee selection has been increasing and, in recent years, has been the topic of heated debate. Supporters and opponents contest the benefits and consequences of the use of credit background checks for personnel selection, with arguments on both sides predominantly based on anecdotal evidence; empirical research is missing from the debate. The lack of research to support these arguments is concerning due to the historical, evidence-based, relationship between employee selection and organizational justice. Job applicants pursue employment to fulfill economic and socio-economic needs and expect fair processes and outcomes. Imbalances in the input-to-output ratio have been suggested to result in behavioral outcomes intent to restore balance. Two experimental studies examined justice-related consequences of the use of ECCs in personnel selection. Study 1 examined potential applicants' perceptions of organizational justice as well as their engagement in both pro-social (organizational citizenship behaviors-OCB) and anti-social (counterproductive workplace behavior-CWB) behavior as a result of failing a job selection hurdle on the basis of a poor ECC outcome (in comparison to a standard personnel selection criteria- job qualifications and work experience). A sample of adults (N = 171) was recruited from Amazon MTurk to ostensibly pilot test an online employee selection battery. They were randomly assigned to either pass both the ECC and Job Qualifications/Experience tests or to fail one or the other (thus being dropped from further consideration). Applicants denied employment based on their consumer credit experienced significantly lower distributive and procedural justice. They were also more likely than those denied employment on the basis of qualifications and experience and those passing both assessments to engage in a CWB. There were no effects on OCB. The effect of failing on the basis of ECC on CWB engagement was mediated by justice perceptions. Study 2 examined how applicants with weak credit, in comparison to applicants with weak qualifications/experience are perceived by raters. Study 2 also examined the potential for disparate treatment against minority applicants on the basis of ECCs - an issue of distributive justice. A similar sample of (N = 155) working adults recruited from Amazon MTurk were asked to make personnel selection judgments of applicants who varied by type of Applicant Credential (weak consumer credit history but strong job qualifications and experience; or weak job qualifications and experience but strong consumer credit history) and race (White/Black). Type of Applicant Credential significantly affected employability ratings such that those with weak qualifications and experience but strong credit were rated as less employable than those with strong qualifications/experience but weak credit. Also, applicants with weak credit (but strong qualifications/experience) were perceived as more likely to exhibit behavioral indicators of fraud than applicants with weak qualifications/experience (but strong credit). Race of the applicant did not moderate these effects. These studies provide evidence of both individual, and organizational, level outcomes associated with the use of ECCs as well as potential retaliatory behavior (CWB) directed at the organization from applicants denied employment based on credit. However, the findings also suggest that ECCs are not prone to race discrimination effects. The findings fill a necessary gap in the research literature by providing empirical evidence directly related to the use of consumer credit in selection.

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